Monday, February 11, 2008

Editorial decisions and impartiality - Part 2

Newsround's editorial decision not to report Phil Redmond's pertinent comments about ending Grange Hill (see last blog entry) is by no means the first time that the CBBC news programme's impartiality has been open to doubt.

On 3 October 2007 Ofcom published a discussion paper about the future of children's TV, but Newsround failed to mention it even on their website. At 5.25pm that day the eight items covered were:

school dinners (based on Ofsted study) - 3'03"
Special Olympics in Shanghai, China - 0'11"
hi tech Japanese mobile phone - 0'14"
tiniest dog in the world - 0'12"
bed bugs on the increase - 1'44"
tropical storm in Vietnam - 0'14"
mystery stone heads in Yorkshire - 0'14"
wacky races in Washington State USA - 1'08"

In the first (school dinners) news item, Lizo said "The people in charge of your schools [Ofsted] say that it's important that more of you eat food that's better for you at lunch times, and they want schools to do more to make sure that all of you eat as healthily as possible." Ellie went on to say that "today's figures [less kids eating school lunches since the ban on junk food] came from a survey of just 27 schools. So we wanted to know what more of you thought." What Newsround didn't say was that 9 of the 27 schools were secondary schools, and that the programme wasn't listening to anyone aged 14 or over. In fact, of the web comments read out by Ellie all came from children under the age of 13, except Emma from Swindon's comment. Emma's age, 13, was the only one not displayed on screen.

This brings us back to the October 2007 Ofcom discussion paper on children's TV, and why nothing was said about it on Newsround or their website. It seems very strange that they would want to know what kids think of school dinners but not what kids think of children's television. Could it be because Ofcom's survey had identified, amongst other things, a lack of public service TV programming aimed at teens. After all, CBBC insist that their 'target age' is six to 12 and were engaged, at that time, in covertly filtering website feedback from teens.

In fact the 'wacky races' item was several days old, and could have easily made way for a much more newsworthy and relevant report on the future of UK children's TV.

Part 3 will follow.

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